Bringing Nepal to Israel

A Nepali who miraculously survived the Hamas attack this week finds new Nepali family in Israel

Prabha Ghimire with Prabin Dangi at a hospital in Jerusalem after Dangi who was shot in both the legs during the Hamas attack this week. All photos courtesy of Prabha Ghimire.

This is the 44th instalment of Diaspora Diaries, a regular series in Nepali Times with stories of Nepalis living and working abroad. 

Waiting outside the operation theatre in Jerusalem, I was getting restless as Prabin Dangi, one of the Learn and Earn students who miraculously survived the Hamas attack was getting surgery inside.

I learnt from a Nepali community social media group chat that he had been brought to a hospital in Jerusalem where I live, so I rushed over. He had been shot in both the legs.

Read also: War in Israel, earthquake and grief in Nepal

Other bullets that would have killed him, just like his friends in the bunker, ricocheted off the wall dislodging a piece of stone which fell on his head requiring Prabin to get stitches.

I was worried sick as I waited restlessly hoping for another miracle. It took six hours for the surgery to be over. Reading the news about fellow Nepalis getting killed had broken me, perhaps a common emotion experienced by Nepalis everywhere.

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Prabin Dangi after his surgery.

A video of him hiding in his bunker saying “My mother is very sick. Please save her. I think I will die” had gone viral and yet, despite the odds, he made it out alive. I found myself cheering on a stranger in a foreign land. But then again, he was not really a stranger.

When you are abroad, just coming across a Nepali makes you instantly bond, and somehow there is a close connection. And in this horrific situation, knowing about what he had been through, and realising that he was my son’s age, I had to help. He was definitely not a stranger.

We were family. And perhaps the whole of Nepal is now wishing him a speedy recovery.

Read also: A Nepali's lucky escape from Hamas, Nischal Pandey

Finally, after six hours, the surgery ended successfully. I convinced the medical staff to let me see him, appealing to their conscience. In that chaos, rules did not matter, and they allowed me in.

I introduced myself to him as his sister. He asked me if he still had his legs. I assured him that he did. Despite the injuries, much to his relief, his legs did not have to be amputated. With therapy and healing, he will be back on his in time.

I tried my best to keep his morale high, to steer the conversation away from the nightmare. I had to remind him that despite the situation in that crowded hospital ward where beds were all taken up by other wounded, he was very lucky.

Other Nepalis have come together to help Prabin. We are all here to work, and have long duty hours, but we have set up a schedule to make sure that there is a Nepali at the hospital to take care of him at all times. Nepalis also collected money to buy him a phone so he can stay connected with his family. As he builds an appetite, which he currently does not have, we will take turns to take Nepali food for him and make sure that he does not feel alone while he recovers.

He knew his father’s number by heart, so I called him during our first meet. His father cried but was also relieved to hear about his son’s health. With him, I cried as well. What must be going through the family’s mind when your son, who had just recently gone overseas with big dreams, met with such a freak incident?

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He narrowly escaped death, and the road to recovery is long. Unexpected long-distance bad news is perhaps one of the most difficult realities for transnational families like us.

You are going by your normal day, and suddenly, your life just turns upside down. With the news of a death, sickness, accident and in Prabin’s case, a terrorist attack.

I myself went through a similar experience of finding out crushing news from home when my husband passed away seven years ago suddenly, unexpectedly, of a heart attack.

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Prabha Ghimire with her late husband who passed away due to a heart attack.

He was a loving husband, and I never got over the loss. I do not know how I made it to Nepal, neither do I know how I made it back to Israel. It is all a blur. But once I returned, the caregiver in me needed care myself.

I was sick, and used to faint. I had lost my appetite and was weak. My blood pressure was low and I had to be escorted back to my room as I would pass out unexpectedly. I relied on medicines. I would break down unexpectedly and constantly.

Grief hits you in different ways, and I struggled to cope. Luckily, the Israeli family I work for was understanding. They let me grieve and gave me all the space I needed. They even offered to let me go so I could be with my family. I insisted on staying on.

I had to get myself out of that deep hole. In the end, it was the thought of my sons back home in Nepal that gave me the strength to try harder. With my husband gone, I was their sole guardian. I had to pull myself together for their sake.

Read also: Nepali family spread across Kuwait, Cyprus, UAE, Tsering Lama and Pasang Lama

Fifteen years abroad is a significant part of your life. The caregiver job has had its ups and downs, gains and losses.

The earnings are good, and I have invested in educating my sons. They are now in Canada and the US, well-educated and doing well for themselves. But how do you weigh that against not knowing what it is like to be close to your children -- watching them grow up. They too do not know what it is like to have their mother around. But had I not come to Israel to work, they probably would not have made it as far as they have.

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Prabha Ghimire with her son and his friends in the US.

How do you measure this tradeoff, especially given the loss of my husband in the midst of our long-distance marriage?

We were married in Nepal when I was just 14, just a child myself. My mother-in-law had passed, and even as a teenager I had to assume the role of guardian of my husband's eight younger siblings. They too treated me like their mother. At first I was unsure of what I was doing as I learnt to cook, chase and clean after them.

Perhaps this trained me well for my later caregiver role here in Israel when I came in 2007. Since then I have changed three employers. Sadly, the reason the last two times has been the passing of my elderly patients. It’s easy to get attached to these frail seniors who become more and more dependent on you. Keeping them company and having conversations is also a huge part of my job. They remember their younger days, share interesting snippets or give life advice.

When I go home to Nepal on yearly breaks, the substitute who usually is a Nepali calls me to tell me to come back as soon as possible as savta (grandmother) is missing me and asking for me.  

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Prabha Ghimire with her elderly patients in Iarael.

I carry a little bit of each of these patients with me. I have had one employer who till her last day made it a point to put make up on every morning and look dolled up. She loved to eat outside and had a zest for life that was infectious. She introduced me to Turkish drama that she loved. My first employer who died within the first year I had come to Israel taught me how to make new recipes like yalanchi. Everytime I prepare or eat those dishes, I think about her.

My current employer who I have been working with for 11 years has been hospitalised since the last few years, and my only role is to keep company throughout the day. Her health has deteriorated, and she relies on machines to keep her alive including for food, so I do not have any caregiving role as such, other than to provide her moral support and company.

Read also: Caring for her own and others, Shyam Kala Rai

I tell her about what is going on, and I know she understands me based on her gestures. The hospital provides all the care she needs, but her family has insisted that I stay because they say my companionship makes a visible impact on her health and morale. She turns 99 next week.

She will be my last employer. After this, I will be spending time with my own family. I have visited my son in the US for a month, and it felt like I had really laughed from the heart for the first time since his father’s passing. We talked, and I cooked for him. I plan to do more of that in the coming days, as we have to make up for lost time.  

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Prabha Ghimire spent some time with her in the US.

In my years in Israel, sirens have been common. You rush to the bunker to hide every time it goes off. But this week was unlike anything I have experienced before. In life, you can never say what will happen next.

The fact that a young man from Nepal in his 20s is lying in a hospital thousands of miles away from family after surviving such a horrific attack that killed his friends shows just how unpredictable life can be. 

Diaspora Diaries is a regular column in Nepali Times providing a platform to share experiences of living, working, studying abroad. Authentic and original entries can be sent to [email protected] with Diaspora Diaries in the subject line.

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